After struggling in Oklahoma for 10 years, Sonic Automotive Inc. has shed its five stores in that state.
In September and October, Sonic sold two Toyota stores, two Chevrolet stores and one Honda store in the Tulsa and Oklahoma City markets.
The five stores never performed well, and it was difficult to travel there from the retailer's North Carolina headquarters, Sonic executives told Automotive News. The stores were rebranded under the Momentum name in August 2011.
"They were profitable, but they just weren't at the level that is acceptable to us," said Jeff Dyke, executive vice president of operations for Sonic, the nation's third-largest retailer. "We just had a heck of a time with that market, and it was certainly time. We found great buyers."
Dealer Jim Norton bought Toyota and Honda stores in Oklahoma City and a Chevy store in the Tulsa suburb of Broken Arrow, Okla., Dyke said.
Fowler Auto Group of Norman, Okla., purchased the Momentum Chevrolet and Toyota stores in Tulsa, the group's first foray into that market. The stores have been renamed with the Fowler label.
"We feel like the numbers make sense," said Mike Fowler, who heads the seven-store Fowler group and had been looking for an acquisition for more than three years. "We'd like to get our arms around these two deals and get these two running like our other dealerships."
Fowler said he sees lots of upside, particularly at the Chevy store, where the sales staff has been operating out of trailers while a $2.8 million showroom is being built. A storm damaged the old showroom in 2011. Fowler decided to spend another $1.5 million to bring the rest of the dealership into compliance with Chevrolet's facility standards.
The staff will move into the new showroom Nov. 15. Fowler anticipates adding 40 employees to the dealership's current staff of 55. The Chevy store has the potential to triple its sales to about 300 to 350 new and used vehicles a month, Fowler said, up from about 100 a month now. Back in 2000, the dealership was selling 900 new and used vehicles a month.